Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Affirmative Vision of God: Embracing the Divine Fluidity (Bruce Epperly)


Bruce Epperly brings the second of his reflections in his Loosely Christian Series.  Now for those of you who know Bruce and his writings, he is a Process Theologian. As such, he envisions God present in and working through creation.  His is a panentheistic theology.  Since I still work to some degree within a Barthian scheme -- thus God is outside us and revealing from outside -- I find his reflections challenging -- in a good way.  I like my theology with a little of Barth and a little of Process, which ends up with a bit of an odd mixture.  Whatever the case, I think we can benefit from thinking about the ways in which God is moving and revealing God's self in our lives. Take a read, and offer your thoughts.


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An Affirmative Vision of God: 
Embracing the Divine Fluidity
Bruce G. Epperly

Faith is best learned through positive spiritual affirmations. Our affirmations shape our perceptions of ourselves and our vision of reality.  Christian faith begins with our images of God.   Followers of a fluid Christianity believe that God is of all things, and the creative wisdom reflected in the evolution of the universe and the emergence of this moment.  While we can never fully fathom God (the apophatic way), the affirmation of divine omnipresence suggests that all things witness to divine wisdom and creativity (the kataphatic way).  What we say about God, then, truly matters. It can be a matter of life and death for us and the planet.  Here are some affirmations at the heart of Loosely Christian:

·         God is moving in and through all things, seeking abundant life for all creation.  God is alive, intimate, and on our side. This is the practical meaning of God’s lively omnipresence and omni-activity, aiming at beauty in all things.  God does not need to control the world to give our lives meaning and vitality.   Rather, God guides the world from within, providing a vision of possibilities for personal and global transformation.

·         God’s revelation is as intimate as this moment’s inspiration, but also revealed over the long haul of our lives and communities of faith. God brings healing to your life and the world. God’s transformative power energetically shapes our lives and the evolving religious traditions in their diversity and relationship with one another.

·         God does not act over against the world, but within the world through encouraging creaturely freedom and creativity.  God seeks abundance for all creation. God wants you and your loved ones to have abundant life.  God does not create a “zero sum” universe, in which creaturely innovation challenges God’s sovereignty.   God delights in our personal and corporate adventures, encouraging evolution and innovation. We live in a lively and abundant world in which we are partners and co-creators with God.  As we become more creative and caring, we enable God to become more creative and caring.  Our personal and communal healing helps God heal the planet. 

·         While God seeks wholeness in all things, God must act in the context of real creaturely freedom.  In contrast to popular Christian writer Rick Warren’s deterministic viewpoint, a loosely Christian vision asserts that God has not decided all the important things in our lives without our input, nor has God placed obstacles in our way simply to test how we’ll respond.[1]  Instead, it affirms that God lovingly responds to events God has not and would not have chosen – cancer, abuse, suicide, earthquake, and tsunami. In the context of a world in which all creatures exhibit at least minimal creativity and self-determination, God invites us to be God’s healing and welcoming partners in the process of “tikkun ‘olam”, or mending the world.

·         God experiences the joy and pain of the world from the inside out.  God’s love involves receptivity as well as activity, listening as well as acting.  What we do really matters to God and shapes God’s own experience and the nature of God’s future involvement in the world.  As Alfred North Whitehead says, “God is the fellow sufferer who understands.”[2]  God is also the fellow celebrant who rejoices in our healing, intimacy, and creativity.   That’s what love is all about, nurturing intimacy, celebration, freedom, and growth – whether in my love for my wife, son, or infant grandson or God’s love for the evolving universe in all its diversity and fragility.

·         God constantly creates in partnership with the world.  God is still speaking and moving in our lives and the world.  God’s word goes forth, vibrating within our spirits and the circuits of galaxies.  God is growing and evolving in relationship with an evolving universe.  Protean  and flexible in character, God, as the source of evolution and emergence, is constantly doing new things and inviting us to embody new possibilities, working with the world as it is to bring forth a dynamic and evolving vision of Shalom.  Our vision of an adventurous and shape-shifting God invites us to be part of a holy and fluid adventure.

Yes, we are part of a lively holy adventure with God as the Great Adventurer.  God is ready to give us more than we can ask or imagine.  Within the limits of our lives, God sees wondrous possibilities for creative transformation.  (Next week, I will be reflective on Affirmative Humanity, in our Adventures with Loosely Christian: Answering God’s Call for an Affirmative Faith for Today.[3]


Bruce Epperly is pastor of South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Centerville, MA.  A resident of Cape Cod, Bruce has previously served on the faculty – or on an administrative or ministerial capacity – at Georgetown University, Wesley Theological Seminary, Lancaster Theological Seminary, and Claremont School of Theology.  The author of twenty seven books in spirituality, ministry, healing and wholeness, and process theology, his most recent books are Letters to My Grandson: Gaining Wisdom from a Fresh Perspective and  Loosely Christian: Answering God's Invitation to a Creative Faith for Today
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[1] My response to Rick Warren is found in Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living (Nashville: Upper Room, 2008; second edition, 2013, Parsons Post Books).
[2] Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: Corrected Edition (New York: Free Press, 1978), 351.

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